HSE Obesity Management Clinical Programme hosts the 2nd Annual Obesity Summer School

HSE Press Release: Wednesday, 26th August 2020

  • 60% of adults and 20% children have overweight and obesity in Ireland
  • People with obesity are particularly vulnerable to the effects of COVID 19
  • Spokespeople available for interviews

Tomorrow, Thursday 27th August 2020, the HSE Obesity Management Clinical Programme is hosting the second annual Obesity Summer School. This year, it will be a virtual event, running from 10am-2.30pm. This free event, which has been fully subscribed to, will see 1,000 participants, made up of members of the public and health professionals joining different seminars over the duration of the event.

This online event is supported and hosted by the HSE, Health & Wellbeing and the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, with Irish and European experts speaking on topics such as childhood obesity, the stigma of obesity, how to talk about weight with your family or GP, and advocating for people living with obesity. The Summer School combines information seminars that may be of particular interest to people living with obesity, as well as a range of topics for health care professionals.

HSE Clinical Lead for Obesity, Prof Donal O’Shea, says:

“The Obesity Summer School is particularly timely this year because we are increasingly realising the stigma associated with obesity. We are increasingly realising the chronic conditions that obesity is driving, and our experience with the recent Covid-19 pandemic, where people living with severe obesity had very poor outcomes if they developed Covid-19, is a lesson in that regard.

We are going to have international experts discussing the management of obesity. We are also going to be looking at our model of care, which is in its final stages of development. .”

Susie Birney, Chair of the Irish Coalition for People living with Obesity in Ireland says:
“I am really looking forward to this event, it is important for people to understand more about obesity, but also to know that there is help and support available, often it is hard to start that conversation. The public information sessions aim to do this and help people to have a more meaningful discussion with their GP.”

Overweight and obesity are defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health. 23% of adults in Ireland live with obesity while a further 37% have overweight.  At least 1 in every 5 children has overweight and obesity in Ireland. Obesity is associated with over 195 other conditions, and people with obesity are particularly vulnerable to the effects of COVID 19 and appear to have a higher rate of serious complications from the virus. Obesity has been officially listed amongst medically vulnerable high risk groups by ECDC (European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control) and European Commission as part of the EU Covid Recovery Programme. The Obesity Management Clinical Programme recommends we should prioritise access to, implementation, funding and uptake of obesity treatment and prevention and care pathways for children and adults as general health care delivery enters the “new reality”.

There are several treatments available to support people with obesity: these include community based programmes which focus on eating, activity and other behaviours that affect weight, medical weight management programmes delivered by multidisciplinary teams that can prescribe medications and bariatric surgery which leads to hormonal or metabolic changes that impact hunger and fullness and improve many obesity related conditions. The joint HSE/RCPI Obesity Management Clinical Programme has developed a model of care for overweight and obesity to guide the HSE in the delivery of health services for children, young people and adults nationally.

Obesity is a complex chronic disease for which there are multiple causes. Many people believe that obesity is a lifestyle choice which is due to poor self-discipline and lack of motivation, but that is just not the case. The reality is that your body tries to protect its fat stores to maintain your highest weight - meaning that managing obesity is a lifelong process. Genetics are increasingly recognised to be a major contributor to body weight, and this can be further exacerbated by the built environment.

Sarah O’Brien, National Lead, Health Eating Active Living Programme, HSE Health & Wellbeing says:

We have seen a significant interest in this year’s event from both the public and healthcare professionals alike, this interaction and engagement will be really important as we move forward to finalise and begin implementing a new model of care for overweight and obesity in Ireland. 

It is also critical to recognise that we live in an environment that makes it difficult to achieve and maintain healthier weight.  As well as prioritising prevention and treatment in health service, we need to look at what can be done to improve this environment for everyone.  Across government and society we need to address issues such as access to and affordability of fresh food, limit the marketing of unhealthy foods, create built environments that promote everyday physical activity, and improve health literacy so people have knowledge, skills and capacity to create and support their health and wellbeing. 

Further information about the HSE’s Virtual Obesity Summer School 2020:

Seminars will cover a broad range of topics including:

  • If you are living with obesity, or concerned about a family member, the morning seminars give a range of information about the symptoms, treatment available and supports available.
  • Find out how to get the most from your GP and what treatments will be available in the future.
  • International experts talk about the latest trends and discuss obesity care in Ireland and internationally, the reality of weight stigma, and obesity and COVID 19.
  • The newly developed HSE Model of Care for the management of overweight and obesity in Ireland. The model of care will guide the HSE in the delivery of obesity care for children, young people and adults.
  • Examples of best practice in obesity care nationally will be highlighted.
  • People with obesity will share their stories and experiences of living with obesity.

Registration was free and open to all people living with or interested in overweight and obesity, including members of the public, healthcare professionals and policy makers.

For more information watch Donal O’Shea, HSE Clinical Lead for Obesity talk about the event

Issued by HSE Press Office

For further information and interview requests please contact:

Emma Lynam, HSE Press Office: press@hse.ie


Spokespeople available:

Prof Donal O’Shea, HSE Clinical Lead for Obesity.Available to discuss:  the trends, latest patient figures, and treatments available. The importance of treating Obesity as an illness, particularly in the context of Covid-19.

Dr Jean O’Connell, Consultant Endocrinologist and Clinical Lead for Specialist Weight Management Service at St Columcilles Hospital, Dublin.Available to discuss: Role of healthcare professionals in broadening the conversation and normalisation about seeking treatment for Obesity.

Ms Susie Birney, Chair of the Irish Coalition for People living with Obesity in Ireland (ICPO). Available to discuss:  the patient perspective, what life is like living with obesity, and what patient supports are available.

Last updated on: 26 / 08 / 2020